Resistance and civilian casualties in The Netherlands
On 10 May 1940 Germany invaded The Netherlands without a declaration of war. The Germans deployed some 750.000 men, about three times the strenght of the Dutch army. The Dutch succeeded in stopping the German advance for four days. Around The Hague the Dutch forces decimated two German airborne divisions and at the Afsluitdijk a small force of some 230 men stopped a complete German cavalry division. The fighting was far from won for the Germans. They had expected to defeat the Dutch in just one day and they decided to break the Dutch will to fight with a aerial bombardement on Rotterdam. The objective of the bombardment was to support the German troops fighting in the city, to break Dutch resistance and force the Dutch army to surrender. On 14 may the entire centre of Rotterdam was destroye and at least 711 people were killed that day. 85.000 more were left homeless. When the Germans threatened to destroy other major Dutch cities as well, the Dutch military leadership decided to capitulate.
The Nazis considered the Dutch to fellow aryans, which made the occupation seem mild at least at first. The main goal of the Nazis was the nazification of the populance and the integration of the Dutch economy into the German economy.
As early as 15 May 1940 the Communist Party of The Netherlands held a meeting to organize their underground existence and resistance against the German occupiers. It was the first resistance organization in the country.
On the same Bernardus IJzerdraat ditributed leaflets protesting againt the Germans and called on the public to resist the Germans. He started to built an illegal resistance organization called De Geuzen, named after a group who rebelled against Spanish occupation in the 16th century.
The first German round-up of Jews in february 1941 led to the first general strike against the Germans in Europe and the event led to an increase in members of the resistance groups. According to a CIA historian there were four major resistance groups in The Netherlands by the middle of 1944:
- LO (Landelijke Organisatie voor Hulp aan Onderduikers, or National Organization for Helping People in Hiding)
- LKP (Landelijk knokploeg, or National Assault Group
- RVV (Raad van Verzet, or Council of Resistance)
- OD (Orde Dienst, or Order of Service)
There were more smaller groups active during the war. The resistance groups were supported by the NSF (Nationale Steun Fonds, or National Support Fund), a financial organization who received money from the exiled government to fund operations of the LO en LKP. It also set up large-scale scams involving the national bank and the tax service. The principal figure of the NSF was Walraven van Hall, whose activities were discovered by the Germans and who was shot at the age of 39. Because of Van Hall’s work the Dutch resistance was never short of money.
One of the most widespread resistance activities was hiding and sheltering refugees and enemies of the Nazi regime. Collectively these people were known as onderduikers (people in hiding, literally ‘under-divers’). The number of people cared for by the LO in july 1944 is estimated to be between 200.000 and 350.000.
Resistance in The Netherlands initially took the form of small-scale, decentralized cells engaged in independent activities, mostly sabotage. They produced forged ration cards and counterfeit money, collected intelligence, published underground papers, raided prisons to liberate resistance members and raided distribution centers and town halls in order to capture blank identification papers and ration cards.
In total some 2000 Dutch resistance members were killed by the Germans. Several hundreds of Germans and Dutch collaborators of the Germans were killed by the resistance.